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Why HR’s role is critical for digital workplace transformation

  • Posted on July 14, 2016

Digital Workplace Transformation

It’s easy to assume that digital transformation is all about technology. After all, the clue’s in the name: digital. Digital tools empower teams to achieve business-critical outcomes and tech-led solutions enable a digital culture, paving the way for efficiency and success.

With so much technology at the forefront of change programmes, it’s no wonder that many organisations are giving the responsibility of driving the digital workplace to IT. They are the people who know what tools to suggest and have the technical know-how to implement them.

However, this approach is fundamentally flawed. The digital workplace is heavily disruptive for businesses, and it requires a new way of working, one that involves a significant redefining of skillsets and a major shift in workplace practices.

At its core, digital transformation is about creating a cultural shift, as much as a technological shift. This is why a symbiotic relationship needs to exist between HR and IT, and both need to co-exist and work alongside each other to make any digital workplace initiative a success. For that reason, both HR and IT need to be considered as dual drivers of the digital workplace.

The People Problem

The crux of digital transformation might lie in technology, but in order to make such change sustainable, HR has a big role to play in helping employees adapt to and driving mass adoption of a digital workplace.

The people aspect of digital transformation remains one of the most difficult parts of change for many organisations. Employees are naturally nervous about change – fear of the unknown is common and expected. Yet problems arise when fear leads to resistance.

On one extreme, there is fear of job loss through automation and bot technology. On the other, employees can be reluctant to change their working habits and are nervous about their capacity to re-skill midway through a career.

Having a strong HR lead in a digital transformation role can help alleviate such feelings, leading to quicker uptake and better engagement rates.

The need for HR heroes

Communicating the value of change and educating employees is key to overcoming resistance. Working with the leadership team to help articulate the value of digital transformation can aid change management, and appointing digital champions across the business can help with individual adoption rates.

The key thing to get across is that digital tools mean employees can work with greater flexibility, empowering them to work both independently and collaboratively.

In addition to futureproofing employees, embracing digital techniques also serves to futureproof the HR department. Automation improves the recruitment and onboarding process, and applicant tracking and online personal training can reduce the amount of administrative work needed from HR. Finally, digital workplace tools, such as real-time analytics, make it much easier for HR professionals to track levels of digital change engagement.

The nature of a digital workplace transformation means that it is always evolving. As technology evolves, so do skills and processes. That’s why neither department can risk being left behind. Combined, HR and IT can work together to grow and improve the rest of the business, establishing digital advocates in each department.

Find out more about HR’s role in shaping the digital workplace, and my thoughts on how HR can work with IT, in Avanade’s new report on the Digital Workplace, which you can download here.

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